Former Assistant Secretary of State Believes Biden Administration Should Support Rafah Operation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – As Israel continues is military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, international relations experts believe that operation could force Hamas into a ceasefire agreement.  

We spoke with Elliott Abrams on the situation. Abrams is a senior fellow for Middle Eastern studies at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former Assistant Secretary of State. Abrams said Israel believes Hamas’ leadership is operating out of Rafah.  

“The only thing that would stop them [Israel] from continuing on from destroying Hamas’ military power is a negotiated ceasefire and there isn’t a negotiated ceasefire,” said Abrams. “And the Israeli’s are saying whatever it is Hamas has claimed to accepted it’s unacceptable to Israel.” 

There’s been international concern about the offensive in Rafah, specifically about civilian harm. Before the Israeli military began their offensive, the IDF told civilians in Rafah to evacuate.  

“I think if you want a ceasefire and would like a period of peace here even if its temporary, the way to do that is make Hamas realize the risks its facing,” said Abrams. “And I think it’s begun to happen and if not, I think we will see more of the fighting we’ve seen that is: thousands of Israeli soldiers going to Rafah  and you’re going to see because it’s terribly violent urban warfare, you’re going to see more Israeli soldiers dying, you’re going to see more innocent civilians who couldn’t get out of the way dying as well. It’s the very horrible, ugly nature of urban warfare and it is exactly what Hamas has always planned. They build those tunnels to protect themselves not to protect civilians. They put their arms and ammunition and headquarters underneath schools, hospitals and mosques in an effort to create the greatest number possible of civilian casualties.” 

For weeks the Biden Administration has said they did not support a military offensive in Rafah unless the Israelis could show how they would minimize civilian harm, among other conditions. Abrams believes the Biden Administration needs to change their tune and be supportive of the offensive in Rafah. 

“Behind the scenes they can work with the Egyptians or others on a negotiated deal but I think there should be public support and I think the pressure has to be on Hamas,” said Abrams. “If we look as if we’re trying to hold the Israeli’s back, Hamas will sit there and say ‘let the Americans restrain Israel’. But if it looks as if we’re supportive of the Israeli’s then Hamas will realize they’ve got to do a deal. I think its also reasonable to talk with the Israelis about the humanitarian side and to help them.”